Thousands gather to bid final farewell to Phillip Hughes
The funeral for cricketer Phillip Hughes turned into a celebration of his life on Wednesday despite the grief and sorrow still evident from his death. Hughes will be buried in his home town on the New South Wales coast.
After a week in which the cricket world has expressed its shock and grief at the tragedy of a 25-year-old sportsman cut down in his prime, the focus of mourning shifts back to the town where Hughes grew up on a banana and beef farm.
Locals in the small rural community halfway between Sydney and Brisbane were greeted by a muggy summer’s morning as the final preparations were being made for the funeral, which starts at 2 pm local time.
More than 5,000 mourners are expected, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australia team as well as Hughes’s team mates from the South Australia state side, who witnessed the fatal delivery striking him on the back of the head.
“They always say you can’t choose your family, but I wouldn’t have mine any other way,” Megan Hughes, Phil’s sister.
“You always had the looks, you always had the hair. I couldn’t have asked for a better little brother,” Phil’s brother Jason Hughes.
Australia captain Michael Clarke, who has played a lauded role in comforting the family since his friend was injured last Tuesday and died last Thursday, will be a pall bearer and read a tribute. The service closed with Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” the same song the famous entertainer and avid cricket fan performed at a concert last weekend in Germany in tribute to Hughes.
Also attending will be cricket greats from Australia such as Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and the Waugh brothers, while Richard Hadlee, Brian Lara and India captain Virat Kohli will represent the wider world.
The funeral will be broadcast live around the country and big screens have been set up in Australia’s major cities, including at the Sydney Cricket Ground where Hughes suffered the fatal injury.